I just finished the audiobook of Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema, a rollicking and enjoyable story set in the underground of near-future London.
Cory has a few superpowers as a novelist, but the rarest among them is that he makes political novels entertaining. He puts that power to work in Pirate Cinema.
(Disclaimer: I’ve been a fan of Cory’s for years. He’s done some writing for me when I’ve been an editor with a freelance budget. And we’ve had a few meals together. I think of him as a friend, while also admiring the hell out of him.)
Pirate Cinema tells the story of Trent McCauley, a teen-ager from the north of England obsessed with downloading pirate movie clips and mashing them together into satirical short videos. When the authorities shut down his family’s Internet access for his piracy, his father is unable to work, his mother can’t get medical treatments, and his sister finds homework overwhelming. Blaming himself, Trent runs away to London, where he falls in with a band of lovable rogues who are like digital updates of the characters of Oliver Twist (there is even one character nicknamed “Dodger.”)
Trent continues making pirate films and runs afoul of the law. Eventually, he and his pals resolve to take down the entire entertainment-industrial complex.
Cory has spoken out and written voluminously about abuse of copyright law. He puts his passion to good work here, weaving a story about underground, black-market art and the people who make it, as well as the business interests who fight against it and the laws they buy. However, some Amazon reviewers found the lecturing in the book heavy-handed.
But Pirate Cinema is primarily a coming-of-age novel. Trent learns to fend for himself, take responsibility for his own actions, experiences first love, and explores the wide world of London. Cory is an expatriate Canadian who’s lived in London for years, and he paints a vivid picture of the metropolis and the people who live between its cracks.
The voice acting of the audiobook, by Bruce Mann, is well done, bringing the characters to life. Mann appears to do all the various varieties of English accent authentically — although what do I know? I’m from New York and live in California.